View more on these topics

Money Advice Service chief defends TV ad claims

Money Advice Service chief executive Toby Hobman has defended the use of the words free, unbiased and independent in its recent TV ad.

In an interview with Money Marketing at the LibDem conference in Birmingham this week, Hobman said the use of the wording was justified and was not intended to undermine the role of the IFA.

He said: “We used independent in the sense we are independent from Government and from the industry, that we are a standalone organisation.

“We understand there are these technical definitions and they are important but in a post-RDR world we expect we will help customers understand what those labels mean and, in a sense, engaging more people with their finances creates a bigger market for independent advice.”

He said he understood the concerns made “very clearly” from parts of the industry but he added: “We are using the term advice in the way average people in the street use it and we are not seeking to try and do anything else and that was clear in the response from the Advertising Standards Authority.”

LibDem peer and managing director of investment firm OLIM, Lord Oakeshott said he is happy to pay his share of the levy which funds the MAS and that well run IFAs “have nothing to fear” from the service. “I think they are complementary, it allows IFAs to give a better service at an enhanced level,” he said.

Aifa director general Stephen Gay used an MAS-run fringe event to congratulate the service for not straying into regulated advice.

He said: “I mystery-shopped the service and I found it impossible to entice any of your advisers to step over the boundaries from non-regulated service into regulated advice, as much as I tried to tempt them.”


News and expert analysis straight to your inbox

Sign up


There are 14 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. I have a feeling that a lot of firms are going to be offering ‘guidance’ very soon rather than advice. Especially as they can call it advice. They will also be able to charge for it and call it ‘free’ too. Thanks Heavens we are all clear about that.

  2. Should IFA’s be at Political Conferences with stands etc to grease palms and lobby politicians?

    Unusual to be at the Lib Dem conference and then say the use of the word “Independent” was meant to signify independence from Government.

  3. So the CII will be setting up new exams for Independant Financial Guidance Councellors next and they will only neer R01

  4. Did anyone care to ask him what he thought about the throwaway line – ‘how’s that for a breath of fresh air’ – which really rankles me.

  5. He said: “We used independent in the sense we are independent from Government and from the industry, that we are a standalone organisation.
    I thought the Advert states “set up by Government”
    So please explain how it is independent from same government?
    If it is standalone it should be taxpayer funded.

  6. Re Dennis
    I agree-the breath of fresh air really stinks!

  7. John T Compliance Officer 21st September 2011 at 1:31 pm

    If a marketing executive tried to get that advert approved in my company then it would have failed on fair, clear and not misleading rules, also denegrating the financial services industry with lines like how’s that for a breath of fresh air, breaching the FSAs own guidlines on maintaining market confidence. The ASA rules aren’t as stringent but i have no idea why the FSA have not stepped in……actually i do have an idea but best not to share it as it has swearing in it

  8. Well said @JohnT – completely agree with you.

  9. I’ve said it once and say it again “this is a whitewash”

    If this service truly wants to work with the industry and promote the merits of IFA’s then maybe it should work with the industry and ask its opinion before launching this type of campaign that seemingly undermines the IFA community in a spectacular way.

    I don’t care what the Advertising Standards Association says these adverts were misleading and this service should be renamed immediately. I hope that AIFA start to act on behalf of the IFA community and lobby government to do this and even take legal action to protect the IFA industries right to use advice as a protected terminology.

  10. “We understand there are these technical definitions and they are important but in a post-RDR world we expect we will help customers understand what those labels mean ”

    Well Mr Consumer, we give free,independent financial advice but it is not independent as in the ‘independent’ in the term Independent Financial Adviser – that is an independence defined by the Financial Services Authority whereas our ‘independent’ is as generally understood by people like yourself. Also, our advice is not actually advice in the same way as that given by an IFA, it is more by way of general guidance. As far as costs are concerned, my advice is free – unless my advice is that you to seek the advice on an IFA. The IFA will charge you a fee for the advice which they give and a part of that fee will be to cover the cost of the levy they pay for my service – at which point it will not have been free to you. However, if you do not take my advice then it will indeed have been free. Now that we’ve cleared that up – how may I be of service?

  11. He said: “We used independent in the sense we are independent from Government and from the industry, that we are a standalone organisation.”

    So, does it not follow that an adviser can call himself independent because he/she is a standalone organisation? Not according to the FSA, but of course the MAS isn’t regulated by the FSA is it..

  12. Tony Hobman – you are playing with words. The vendetta against IFAs continues.

    It is patently obvious to ANY IDIOT that this whole issue could have been avoided by calling it the MONEY GUIDANCE SERVICE, but for some inexplicable reason (well, inexplicable to IFAs anyway!…) it was called the MONEY ADVICE SERVICE. Brilliant!. All you’ve done is cloud the issue at a time when the RDR is all about transparency.

    I think you are insulting the publics’ intelligence by assuming that they would not know the difference between advice and guidance.

    If, however, you insist that the MAS employs ‘ADVISERS’ I just wonder when the first legitimate complaint comes in from Confused from Basildon, whether the MAS will magically become the MGS overnight!. Crikey, your advisers may be liable for the rest of their lives – I doubt you’d live with that would you?

    No, I’m sick of it all.

    In two years’ time I am returning to my previous career as a TV actor because although ‘showbiz’ is certainly fickle and has an unemployment rate of 96% this is lower than it will be for IFAs when the FSA have forced us out of business.

    And if all I get from my return to acting is a part as the back-end of a pantomime horse, then I may just have well have stayed an IFA because that’s how we treated and perceived by every other corporate entity in financial services.

  13. “Free at the point of use to the consumer but funded by the financial services industry” should be the least we expect – Lord Oakeshot may agree to pay (though I doubt from his own pocket) but I consider it to be immoral for the Government to dip its hand into my back pocket without asking. It is a discriminatory tax. If it is wanted by consumers let the Government justify it to them and pay from general taxation.

  14. Nice to see the Aifa director general Stephen Gay is supporting your feelings and thoughts behind this campaign by congratulating the service.

    The AIFA website claims to be ”the voice of the IFA profession”.

    Worth your membership fees?

Leave a comment